I have been posting here recently on the concept of heaven in the Bible (see posts here, here, and here). In that discussion, I have noted that in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, there is a spectrum of meanings: 1) the regions above the earth (sky), and 2) the dwelling place of God. I have suggested that the second meaning of heaven as the dwelling place of God may be figurative or metaphorical, meaning that when the writers of the Bible used that word to depict God's abode, they were not thinking anymore of the literal sky, but rather were using the word figuratively. James McGrath, in his own blog post has pushed back on my suggestion of a figurative use for heaven in the Bible, suggesting instead that there may be a 100% overlap between the literal use of heaven (sky) and the use of heaven as God's home. The question is this: when the biblical writers used the word heaven to mean God's abode, did they have a 100% overlap with their notion of sky. That is, did God literally dwell in the sky?
I am not sure that I can fully answer that question in a blog post, and I am not sure how substantive my disagreement with James may actually be. I would agree with Dr. McGrath that certainly in places the two uses of the word do overlap completely in the Bible. Of course there are places where the ancients literally thought God dwelt in the sky. What I was suggesting was that there may be a spectrum of meaning of the word in the Bible, where the writers are moving away from a 100% overlap toward a more figurative usage. Certainly today the modern Christian conception of heaven as a non-physical reality where God dwells and where Christians will dwell in eternity is at one extreme of that spectrum where there is a 0% overlap with the other extreme where heaven literally means sky. My question is, in the Bible, is there any movement along that spectrum toward a figurative usage?
And here is where worldviews come in. I am thoroughly modern in my worldview. When I think of earth and sky, I cannot help but incorporate my modern, scientific worldview. That is, the sky, for me, is the earth's atmosphere that surrounds a spherical planet, that is one of 8(9) planets that revolve around a sun, that is a mid-sized star in a large galaxy, that is one of millions of galaxies.